Voters in Scotland have been urged to check that they are on the electoral register ahead of this summer's Holyrood election, after official statistics revealed that the size of the country's electorate has fallen for the first time in six years.
Just over four million people were registered to vote in the Scottish Parliament and local government elections on 1 December last year, a decrease of 100,000 compared to nine months earlier, the figures from National Records of Scotland showed. It is the first time the Scottish electorate has decreased in size since 2009.
The fall has been put down to the UK Government's modernisation of the electoral registration system, which means that everyone eligible to vote must now inform the authorities themselves rather than relying on the “head of the household” to do so on their behalf.
Describing the latest figures as “extremely worrying”, the SNP said it had repeatedly raised concerns that the move to individual electoral registration would result in voters falling off the register. “One of the great successes of the independence referendum was the level of engagement and voter participation that swept across every community,” said the party's Rob Gibson MSP. “It is vitally important that we aim to retain this level of voter participation.”
“A lot more has and will continue to be done to ensure as many people as possible know that they need to register to vote before the deadline, and how they go about doing so,” said Andy O'Neill, head of the Electoral Commission in Scotland. The deadline for registering to vote in the next Scottish parliamentary election is 18 April, a process which can be completed online.
Scotland completed the move to individual registration slightly later than other parts of the UK to allow for the smooth running of 2014's independence referendum. When England and Wales made the switch, similar decreases were recorded.
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